The high temperatures needed for transforming raw materials into primary materials cannot be easily electrified and current alternatives are expensive or technically difficult. Entirely new processes will need to be created to decarbonise heavy industry. The challenge for the industry is to scale up promising technologies so they can be widely used and commercially viable. Discovering these new low-carbon processes will take time, but governments can help by investing in R&D to catalyse innovation.
Sweden is leading the way with two promising projects in cement and steel - the highest emitting sub-sectors in industry. The Swedish CemZero project is a pilot study on electrified cement production (which would be close to zero emissions if the electricity is fossil fuel free), and aims for zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. This would equal a 5% reduction of Sweden’s total CO2 emissions. Likewise, the Swedish HYBRIT aims to create zero carbon steel across the supply chain - from the mining of iron ore to the fabrication of steel - using hydrogen technologies.
The European Union is also investing heavily to push the innovation frontier. One of the missions for the Horizon 2020 funding is to strengthen the European value chain for low-carbon hydrogen and fuel cells for energy- and carbon-intensive industry, in particular the steel industry and the chemicals sector.